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Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2013 Dec;137(12):1798-810. doi: 10.5858/arpa.2013-0125-SA. Epub 2013 May 1.

Tracking in anatomic pathology.

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From the Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Dr Pantanowitz); the Department of Pathology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (Dr Mackinnon); and the Department of Pathology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut (Dr Sinard).


Bar code-based tracking solutions, long present in clinical pathology laboratories, have recently made an appearance in anatomic pathology (AP) laboratories. Tracking of AP "assets" (specimens, blocks, slides) can enhance laboratory efficiency, promote patient safety, and improve patient care. Routing of excess clinical material into research laboratories and biorepositories are other avenues that can benefit from tracking of AP assets. Implementing tracking is not as simple as installing software and turning it on. Not all tracking solutions are alike. Careful analysis of laboratory workflow is needed before implementing tracking to assure that this solution will meet the needs of the laboratory. Such analysis will likely uncover practices that may need to be modified before a tracking system can be deployed. Costs that go beyond simply that of purchasing software will be incurred and need to be considered in the budgeting process. Finally, people, not technology, are the key to assuring quality. Tracking will require significant changes in workflow and an overall change in the culture of the laboratory. Preparation, training, buy-in, and accountability of the people involved are crucial to the success of this process. This article reviews the benefits, available technology, underlying principles, and implementation of tracking solutions for the AP and research laboratory.

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